In December, peaceful water protectors celebrated a small victory over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The 1,172-mile oil pipeline was denied permits by the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers to proceed with its route through precious land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe’s only water supply would be poisoned by even the smallest amount of inevitable leakage and their sacred burial grounds uprooted. Since youth of the tribe brought attention to the issue in September through social media, thousands flocked to Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota in protest to what is essentially a continuation of the atrocities Native Americans have faced since the 1600s at the hands of our government.
The route through Standing Rock was a reroute of the original plan, which planned to pass through Bismarck, ND, a predominantly white city. After conversations with local officials, it was clear that the DAPL’s proximity to the city would be far too risky and most likely cause problems in the water supply. Although people were concerned about the water condition in Bismarck, there was little issue taken with the risks DAPL would present to the people of Standing Rock. Consequently, the digging began. Conversations like those between the City of Bismarck and Dakota Access, LLC were never initiated in Standing Rock but gave the people insignificant input concerning their only water supply.
Although the Army Corps. December decision has halted the building, it does not mean the Pipeline will soon be given the go-ahead – if not through Standing Rock, then likely through the land of a different tribe. Hundred-year-old treaties and modern laws concerning tribal land ownership are in constant completion, making territorial borders and land possession confusing and often unclear. Small reservations like Standing Rock exist in patches throughout the state in most places where a re-route would be possible, leaving many other tribes to face what Standing Rock is now.
Nation media attention to DAPL dwindled after the denial, writing it off as a clear victory for the water protectors. This is far from true. Although an important triumph, the Army Corps. merely postponed the building of the pipeline until other options have been examined and an up-to-date environment study has been completed. The depth of the study will be decided under Trump’s administration, the president himself having large amounts of money invested in the completion of the pipeline. The environmental study can range anywhere from about three months to three years, the longer end of the spectrum being the minimum time for accurate results on the predicted environmental impact to be clear.
It is unquestionable that oil pipelines have a negative impact on not only the water supply but all the land around them. Leakage is unavoidable and results of a proper study would likely show that DAPL will contaminate everything around it. Any scientist can tell that nothing less than three years would be long enough to confirm the effects of a 1,172-mile pipeline on entire ecosystems, but the minimum length requirement proposes an easy way around the suspension.
As of the now, Standing Rock and the rest of the country awaits the outcome of DAPL and the fight for the environment and those people who depend on it continues worldwide.